Amtrak dining

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

MccfamschoolMom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
455
Location
Dwight, IL
I’ve never used an Instant pot put years ago used a pressure cooker and would cut cooking time on certain items in about half.
An "Instant Pot" is an electric pressure cooker, which can also saute, slow-cook, etc.. It's a brand name of a particular kind of electric pressure cooker, but is informally used to refer to similar electric pressure cookers from other manufacturers. (F.ex., I've owned both an Instant Pot and a Ninja Foodi in the past, but my current electric pressure cooker is made by Hamilton Beach.) I'll defer to more knowledgeable AU members as to whether or not pressure cookers are/have been/could be in future a thing in Amtrak diner kitchens, though.
 

MccfamschoolMom

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
455
Location
Dwight, IL
Wonder if they would find some reason to object if you brought your own tablecloth and flower...
Good question! I would think that could surely be done on the small table in one's roomette or bedroom, but don't know if it would be OK in the dining car. (If it was allowed, you'd probably have to be willing to share that tablecloth & flower with any diners not of your own party at your table for the duration of that meal.)
 

JWM

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 3, 2021
Messages
85
Location
Sarasota, Florida
Said it before and will say it again, all overnight trains should have a real dining car, with real food, served on real china, on a real tablecloth/napkin etc. Also, can't they vary the menu items from train to train. You take the CZ to Emeryville then the CS to Seattle and, presto, same food, same menu and may God bless the departed "Pacific Parlour Car" on the CS which was loved.
 
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
3,710
How does ANYONE defend that? that entree looks disgusting and that salad is beyond pathetic. It still shocks me that this is what is served to sleeper passengers on high $$$ trains like the Silver and Lake Shore.

Swanson Frozen Dinners have a better appearance presentation than the "better" presentation shown.
 

TheCrescent

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
468
Is there a contact at Amtrak who would be receptive to suggestions about long distance train dining?

Flexible Dining is just not cutting it: this time, a menu printed using an office printer in 81/2”x11” office paper; the menu in my room was wrong and didn’t have what was listed; I was given a substituted entree without being asked; and dinner was served (without a choice) at 4pm. I thought that Flexible Dining’s appeal was that you could eat when you wanted.

I’ve seen that JetBlue features Dig Inn food; that’s a NYC chain that has really good, healthy and filling yet relatively inexpensive food, served cafeteria-style in cardboard bowls. There’s a new Dig Inn a block or two from Penn Station, so Amtrak could easily get food from there or from one of the other similar chains, such as Sweetgreen. Even Chipotle would be better than Flexible Dining.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
902
On the Eagle last month there was one sitting. 5PM. Lunch was at 12PM. The lounge/cafe car was closed to Coach passengers from 11 to1 and 4 to 6.

There is nothing appealing about flex dining The term "flexible" I thought meant you could eat when you wanted. Everytime I had flex I was assigned a certain time.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
Is there a contact at Amtrak who would be receptive to suggestions about long distance train dining?

Flexible Dining is just not cutting it: this time, a menu printed using an office printer in 81/2”x11” office paper; the menu in my room was wrong and didn’t have what was listed; I was given a substituted entree without being asked; and dinner was served (without a choice) at 4pm. I thought that Flexible Dining’s appeal was that you could eat when you wanted.

I’ve seen that JetBlue features Dig Inn food; that’s a NYC chain that has really good, healthy and filling yet relatively inexpensive food, served cafeteria-style in cardboard bowls. There’s a new Dig Inn a block or two from Penn Station, so Amtrak could easily get food from there or from one of the other similar chains, such as Sweetgreen. Even Chipotle would be better than Flexible Dining.
I am pretty sure Amtrak is aware of the general response to flex dining. The RPA reminds them about it anyway. They've spun up a committee to study food options going into the future (a committee being the only known form of life with 10 stomachs and no brain).

They do appear to be posting chef jobs in the east that appear to be at locations for the Silvers, at least. So the end of it may be within our lifetimes, for the Silvers anyway.

As to suggestions from outsiders, those would almost certainly disappear into the round file (or bit bucket if electronic).
 

Devil's Advocate

⠀⠀⠀
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
13,525
Location
⠀⠀⠀
Is there a contact at Amtrak who would be receptive to suggestions about long distance train dining?
Some contributors have said they received responses from certified mail sent to executives. Others have said they were able to talk to a manager over the phone back when call volumes were much lower. I've even had someone reach out to me asking about a post I made here on the forum but it's rare. For my money I think the best bang-for-buck is achieved when you ask for a credit through Customer Relations. Even if the credit is tiny it should still create a paper trail that ends up in a monthly report. If enough credits are categorized as poor dining experience it might gain some traction. Joining the RPA is not free but it's cheap enough that I never miss the fee. If everyone who has a problem with Amtrak joined the RPA it could grant them more leverage to push for improvements.
 

Sauve850

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 9, 2014
Messages
659
Location
West Palm Beach, Florida
On the Eagle last month there was one sitting. 5PM. Lunch was at 12PM. The lounge/cafe car was closed to Coach passengers from 11 to1 and 4 to 6.

There is nothing appealing about flex dining The term "flexible" I thought meant you could eat when you wanted. Everytime I had flex I was assigned a certain time.
I had a choice ( of times ) on my Cardinal trip recently just like every other long distance train Ive been on in the past.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
902
I had a choice ( of times ) on my Cardinal trip recently just like every other long distance train Ive been on in the past.
I did have a choice of times on every trip with flex,but the Cardinal had that one 5PM seating. What I meant to say was,like traditional dining,there were set times. The term flex,from what I understand,meant you can order your dinner at any time you wanted during dinner hours,not set times.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,597
Location
Washington State
I did have a choice of times on every trip with flex,but the Cardinal had that one 5PM seating. What I meant to say was,like traditional dining,there were set times. The term flex,from what I understand,meant you can order your dinner at any time you wanted during dinner hours,not set times.
That is what it was intended to be when it was first rolled out, no more "seatings." Not sure how long that lasted, if they even ever did it that way at all.

It is still defined that way in the Service Standards manual:
13. Flexible Dining Service Flexible Dining is a relaxed, freestyle dining service for Sleeping car customers on select long distance routes.
• Flexible Dining Service routes:
• Crescent (19/20)
• Capitol Limited (29/30)
• Lake Shore Limited (48/49/448/449)
• Cardinal (50/51)
• City of New Orleans (58/59)
• Sliver Star (91/92)
• Silver Meteor (97/98)
• Meals are provided from an exclusive lounge only for Sleeping car customers.
• Sleeping car customers are entitled to one alcoholic beverage (must be 21 and over). • Sleeping car customers are entitled to unlimited non-alcoholic beverages.
• Breakfast service is a grab-and-go continental breakfast service. • Customers can have as many breakfast items as they like.
• Lunch/Dinner – Customers are entitled to one entrée per meal period.
Hours of Service:

• Breakfast: 6:30AM -11:00AM
• Lunch/Dinner: 11:00AM – 11:00PM
• Exclusive lounge is available for sleeping car customers to relax, dine and socialize 24/7.
• Dining times are flexible – customers can eat when they choose while the attendant is on duty.

🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

For more laughs, like cafes being open endpoint to endpoint on short distance trains, the service standards manual is available for download on Amtrak.com.

 
Last edited:

marcoloco

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 8, 2022
Messages
27
Location
Houston, TX
On the Eagle last month there was one sitting. 5PM. Lunch was at 12PM. The lounge/cafe car was closed to Coach passengers from 11 to1 and 4 to 6.

There is nothing appealing about flex dining The term "flexible" I thought meant you could eat when you wanted. Everytime I had flex I was assigned a certain time.
The Texas Eagle is unfortunately one of those trains in which the crew determines the procedure for that particular day and they do it to comfort themselves, not the passengers. The train is staffed out of Chicago. The Chicago crew base is well known for their laziness and rudeness.
 
Joined
Sep 8, 2022
Messages
5
Location
San Francisco
An "Instant Pot" is an electric pressure cooker, which can also saute, slow-cook, etc.. It's a brand name of a particular kind of electric pressure cooker, but is informally used to refer to similar electric pressure cookers from other manufacturers. (F.ex., I've owned both an Instant Pot and a Ninja Foodi in the past, but my current electric pressure cooker is made by Hamilton Beach.) I'll defer to more knowledgeable AU members as to whether or not pressure cookers are/have been/could be in future a thing in Amtrak diner kitchens, though.
Amtrak should look at those Suvie robot ovens (those one's you see advertise on YouTube)
 

Devil's Advocate

⠀⠀⠀
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
13,525
Location
⠀⠀⠀
Amtrak should look at those Suvie robot ovens (those one's you see advertise on YouTube)
When I was working at a mixed use office many years ago we complained about the quality of the coffee. To solve the problem the owning entity brought in a new coffee maker that retailed for around $10k. Unfortunately the coffee tasted exactly the same because they kept brewing the same roast. The coffee I like costs more per pound than the cheap and generic coffee maker that brews it. In order for a fancy oven to have an obvious and reliable impact you first have to start with quality ingredients.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,837
Ive said this before I have not found the flex meals to be particularly bad and I’d disagree that it’s considerably lower quality than Acela first though Acelas presentation is certainly better with real plates - I actually would say I even liked a couple of them. I would add I don’t have dietary restrictions and I would also mention I have only had flex meals prepared as they are supposed to be in a convection oven in a VL2 diner which may make a difference compared to microwaving if the attendant on the Eagle, Crescent, and Cardinal is doing that. I’d certainly take traditional back in a heartbeat but for me I can live with it on a two night trip. I might feel differently if they took away the viewliner diner though as a place to sit which I love. Some of the photos you see clearly show the meals still in the packaging when served so some clearly are microwaving.
 

fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
493
Location
upstate New York
When we rode in first class on the Acela last month from New York to Boston, we were served breakfast en route. Because we had chosen table seating for our group of three, we effectively had table service. The attendant gave us professionally printed menus with at least four choices, and the items listed on the menu actually were all available. Our omelets and potatoes arrived on real plates with metal utensils and cloth napkins. Obviously the eggs weren't cooked to order, but the omelets had a savory filling, and the presentation probably made the meal seem better than it was. The portions were small, but fine for a 3.5-hour ride. The attendant was attentive and efficient, and the coffee, though served in a disposable cup, was excellent. We left the train feeling this was an experience worth repeating.

The last time I took the Lake Shore Limited overnight, nearly three years ago and just before the pandemic, the only hot breakfast item available was the Jimmy Dean hockey puck, which the LSA would heat up if you requested one. He also dispensed coffee. Otherwise, breakfast was entirely self-service, with Styrofoam bowls, plastic cutlery and thin paper napkins. There were a few kinds of cold cereal, some apples and bananas, tiny containers of yogurt and prepackaged muffins -- what my wife calls "glue muffins." I put something together. It was better than nothing, but it was my only meal on a 16-hour ride for which I paid far more than I did for my more recent Acela trip. I left the Lake Shore feeling hungry and vowing to stay away, which is partly why my Amtrak travel since then has been limited to the triangle between Maine, Virginia and upstate New York.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,837
The last time I took the Lake Shore Limited overnight, nearly three years ago and just before the pandemic, the only hot breakfast item available was the Jimmy Dean hockey puck, which the LSA would heat up if you requested one. He also dispensed coffee. Otherwise, breakfast was entirely self-service, with Styrofoam bowls, plastic cutlery and thin paper napkins. There were a few kinds of cold cereal, some apples and bananas, tiny containers of yogurt and prepackaged muffins -- what my wife calls "glue muffins." I put something together. It was better than nothing, but it was my only meal on a 16-hour ride for which I paid far more than I did for my more recent Acela trip. I left the Lake Shore feeling hungry and vowing to stay away, which is partly why my Amtrak travel since then has been limited to the triangle between Maine, Virginia and upstate New York.

They’ve made some tweaks to flex dining in the last three years that in my opinion makes it a little more tolerable than your experience. (Some will disagree which is fine, I’m merely sharing my opinion not arguing that others or even yourself should agree with me. Food is a highly subjective thing as we all have different tastes, dietary requirements, likes, dislikes, etc. So you’re never going to get across the board agreement.) They dispensed with the self service concept at breakfast (at least on the Lake Shore) and the attendant serves you at the table now. They have also added some breakfast entrees besides the continental option. Tough thing with the reheated breakfast is they all depend on heating them precisely to get the proper result. If you overheat pre made French toast it will be hard as a rock, and if you overheat a pre made omelette it will dry out. But when prepped correctly it isn’t horrible. I will add I have had the same experience on Acela at breakfast as well - if not heated precisely the egg based breakfasts tend to dry out.

Having said all that there’s certainly room for improvement particularly on the presentation side. I’d love to see traditional dining or something closer to that return as much as anyone. I find flexible workable on a one night trip and it doesn’t drive me away but would also welcome an effort to improve things for those that aren’t on the same page as I on this issue and those that have dietary restrictions. Certainly for the money we pay it could be better - but I personally don’t find it as bad as some make it out to be and for me food isn’t really a make of break deal on the train. But again this is all my personal opinion. I personally take no offense to disagreement on this it’s food - for many the food is a big deal and for their sake I hope they make some changes in the near future.
 

joelkfla

Engineer
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,417
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
They dispensed with the self service concept at breakfast (at least on the Lake Shore) and the attendant serves you at the table now.
On the Silver Meteor last fall, I was served. On the Silver Star in June, I served myself (including dinner).

Either they've flip-flopped twice, or, more likely IMO, it depends on the LSA.
 
Top